India

Indian media highlight controversy over Mumbai property advert

The coastal city of Mumbai faces a severe shortage of living spaces due to rising population
Image caption The coastal city of Mumbai faces a severe shortage of living spaces due to rising population

Newspapers are highlighting a controversy over a discriminatory property advert that barred Muslims from applying for a flat in Mumbai.

The advert, posted by an agent on popular property website 99acres.com, sought applications from those seeking to rent a flat in Mumbai, but allegedly said "Muslims not allowed".

The ad was removed after prominent activist Shehzad Poonawalla filed a petition with the National Commission for Minorities seeking action against the agent and the website, the CNN-IBN website reports.

House owners' discrimination against particular communities in the city of Mumbai is not rare, but this is perhaps the first time a leading website allowed such an ad to be posted, reports say.

Mr Poonawala told the NDTV website that such stereotypes need strict condemnation.

"This advertisement is only a symptom of the stereotype and prejudice that exists in society... I would advise 99 acres to immediately apologise unconditionally to the Muslims because there is an outrage against this advertisement," he told the NDTV.

The 99acres.com has also apologised over the incident and has promised to take measures to avoid such issues in the future.

"We are in the process of putting in place more rigorous checks and processes to prevent the recurrence of such listings. We are deeply embarrassed that our site was misused in this manner," the website said in a statement.

Some reports say such discrimination is not only limited to one community as other groups like gay and lesbians too face difficulties while trying to rent or buy properties in Mumbai.

The First Post website says "such prejudice in the realty market, however, is not new. One often finds posts titled 'only brahmins (upper-class Hindus), Hindus, vegetarians and straight people wanted'".

Meanwhile, senior police officials in the eastern state of Assam have ordered a probe after a satirical US website published a piece titled "The Assam rape festival in India begins this week".

The piece was a satirical comment on India's dismal record on women's security, but some social media users and state police officials feel the website shouldn't have named a state or a country, reports say.

"We have taken up a suo moto (without a formal complaint from any party) case. It is a sensitive issue and we will take up the matter with the website," senior state police official Devraj Upadhyay told the Hindustan Times.

In political news, ruling Congress party has said its spokespersons will not participate in any television studio discussion on opinion polls ahead of the 2014 general elections, The Hindu reports.

"The party will not be participating in programmes that are based on unscientific, opaque and motivated projections," Congress communications chief Ajay Maken told the paper.

The move comes at a time when the party is facing criticism for suggesting a ban on opinion polls, which it termed "unscientific".

Quit smoking for jobs

Meanwhile, candidates aspiring for a government job in the north-western state of Rajasthan will now have to give a written promise that they will not smoke or chew tobacco while in service, The Times of India reports.

The state government has ordered all departments and district collectors to follow the new procedure, the report adds.

"It is not only in India but probably first in the world that such a decision has been taken to discourage tobacco consumption" senior state official Sunil Singh said.

And finally, India is set for "one of the most awaited World Chess Championship match in the recent history of the game" which begins in southern city of Chennai on Saturday, where Indian chess wizard Viswanathan Anand will defend his world title against rising star Magnus Carlsen, the NDTV website reports.

The match is being compared to the "historic clash" between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky way back in 1972, at the height of the Cold War, the report adds.

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